Last week, the FDEA executive board convened on the campus of Tallahassee Community College for its annual leadership retreat. The theme was “Leading in Times of Change.” The retreat included a luncheon with a keynote speaker, Dr. Feleccia Moore-Davis, provost and vice-president of Academic Affairs at TCC, and culminated with a meeting with the dynamic Madeline Pumariega, chancellor of the Florida College System, and her staff.
It was during our gathering that we learned of Governor Rick Scott’s veto of SB 374. Unfortunately, this was not a veto of the higher education budget which included a 30.2 million dollar cut for state/community colleges (ended up being 25 million). Instead, this was a veto of troublesome policy that would have further hampered access and our ability to perform our jobs effectively. I encourage anyone who has not done so to read Governor Scott’s very moving letter in which he eloquently affirms the value of Florida’s community colleges (http://www.myafchome.org/). The governor specifically vetoed, among other things, the following:
An enrollment cap of 15% on baccalaureate programs
The creation of a new State Board of Community Colleges to oversee the 28 state colleges, which are now under the State Board of Education
New performance funding metrics
The name of the Florida College System to the Florida Community College System
While we applaud Governor Scott’s acknowledgement of the impactful work being done by Florida’s state/community colleges, we are still disheartened by the severe budget cuts, which will affect college operations for the 2017-2018 fiscal year. These cuts will make it more difficult for us to serve our students effectively, for even though the proposed reduction was advertised as a cut to developmental education (remedial education), the truth of the matter is that there is no line item in the budget for such, which means that there will be cuts across the board. At Tallahassee Community College, for example, that amounts to a $2 million dollar deficit to the college’s operational budget. To compensate for that reduction it means that there will be an immediate hiring freeze for all positions, even in critical areas such as academic advising. Entire programs may be dissolved, and professional development funds that help our faculty and staff stay abreast of technological and educational trends will be sharply reduced.
What is deeply disappointing is that these cuts come even though state/community colleges have abided by the governor’s wishes to hold the line on tuition increases in spite of historic declines in enrollment, which have resulted in a decline in revenue. Consequently, for at least four years, state/community colleges have been in the difficult position of having to do more with less. This was especially true in 2013 when the legislature passed SB 1720, the massive landmark developmental education reform bill, which was, in essence, an unfunded mandate. Simply put, for years we have been asked to do more with less, and we have complied, only to be rewarded with severe cuts.
Nevertheless, we persist! In spite of all these setbacks, we are more determined than ever to do whatever it takes to ensure the quality of education that we provide to our students will not suffer. We understand fully that the enrollment declines in developmental education courses due to SB 1720 reflect a shift of students, not a disappearance, as more of them enroll in gateway math and English courses and still need additional support in order to be successful in their academic and/or career pathways. This year FDEA is committed to three goals: professional development, advocacy, and outreach. According to Chancellor Pumariega, advocacy is something all of us, not just FDEA, should take part in because ultimately the legislators who develop and pass the laws that we have to live with are accountable to the voters who put them in office. We should all make our voices heard, individually and collectively.
If you have not done so already, please join us in our fight to ensure that all of the students who enter our institutions receive quality postsecondary education. Like us on Facebook and/or go to our website at www.myfdea.net. Consider submitting a proposal for our state conference on September 21-22 at State College of Florida, Lakewood Ranch Campus in Sarasota. We are excited to welcome Robin Ozz, NADE president, as our keynote speaker for the conference. The deadline for proposal submissions is July 31 (see details on the website).
Post Senate Bill 1720 and post the 2017-2018 budget cuts, nevertheless, we persist!